Practicing Humility in an Achievement-Driven Culture

should i pray the litany of humility

Ever notice how the virtues we pray for grow in proportion to the number of times they’re tested? It’s common sense, really, but somehow it always still seems to surprise me. As much as we’d like to be handed virtues on a silver platter of holiness, we can’t, for example, pray for patience without expecting to land in the longest line at airport security or bearing with our own and others’ faults for the umpteenth time.


Humility is another one of those virtues. The more I pray for humility, the more I find myself getting humiliated. This is a problem for a perfectionist who has spent her life building her identity in how well she performs.

See, I rather like being extolled, honored, praised, and approved. Being told that I’ve failed or otherwise feeling I’ve made a fool of myself stings, and often leaves me questioning my worth.

I’m sure you’ve been there, too, sister. We live in a culture so bent on worldly success and achievement that we forget that, as Leon Bloy once put it:

The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.

The goal of this life is to reach sainthood, and I should be working toward holiness with all that I’ve got. But instead, I spend most of my time thinking of how best to represent myself on all fronts—on social media, in my relationships, in my work—so as not to risk heaping embarrassment and overwhelming reminders of my littleness.

...the only real failure...in life is not to become a saint. -Leon Bloy #BISblog // Click To Tweet

The Litany of Humility

Enter the Litany of Humility: guaranteed to increase holiness if we pray it frequently, though not without first pruning our pride. But how exactly does that happen?

The response in the last part of the litany seems fairly straightforward: “Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.”

The dispensation of grace is left under the Holy Spirit’s purview. I can keep praying for the grace to desire humility, but I can’t control exactly when or how it will arrive. Faithful, earnest recitation of this part of the prayer seems to be enough here.

And at first glance, asking Jesus to “deliver me” from pride in all the ways the Litany stipulates in the first stanza seems like something that is also out of my control. I’m still craving action steps, though, and this litany is definitely not designed to let me off the hook. While I might be asking Jesus to do the heavy lifting of deliverance, I can still pick up a couple of spiritual two-pounders and do my part to show Him I’m serious about this.

Embracing Embarrassment

When I feel humiliated as a result of a failure to achieve, accomplish, or perform, my focus turns inward and the situation becomes all about me. What must they all think of me now?

What might happen if I worked on turning outward instead? If I focused my efforts to grow in humility on the hard, Christ-centered work of loving other people rather than on fearful and selfish attempts to save my own reputation?

I’ve come up with the following list of ways to begin doing this, and to therefore live the Litany of Humility in some practical ways. I’m sharing them in the hopes that they will be helpful to you, too.

How to Practice Humility in a Culture Focused on Pride

Spend a day, week, or month on social media without posting anything yourself. Instead, meaningfully engage with other users. Comment on their photos. Read the links they promote back to their blogs. Support their businesses. Visit your Blessed is She regional Facebook group and pray for the intentions of your sisters.

Write a review for your favorite podcast, the last book you really enjoyed, a local business whose customer service blew you away, or a product you ordered from an Etsy shop. Lift up the work that someone else is doing.

Give someone a sincere compliment to someone that has nothing to do with how they look or what they’re wearing, and everything to do with who they are. Call out the holiness in and the blessing of someone else. Remind them of the ways in which they are a gift to you, simply by being who God created them to be.

Pray for the people you envy. We know that life is never consistently as great as our social media feeds would suggest. We also know that the nature of being human means that everyone is fighting some sort of battle, even if we don’t know what it is. So why not pray for that person who seems to have it all together instead of harboring resentment toward them?

Give thanks, asking for Mary’s intercession. The Magnificat is the cry of a humble soul who has recognized God’s blessings with utmost gratitude. Why not make it your prayer, too, as you count the good things God has already done in your life?

Seeking Humility Together

Here’s to the hard work of growing in humility alongside one another. I’ll be praying for you, sister.

Have you ever prayed the Litany of Humility? What has your experience been?

Practicing Humility in an Achievement-Driven Culture #BISblog // Click To Tweet

Sarah Zentner is a graduate student in English literature, who believes the written word is often an extraordinary place to witness the grace and goodness of God. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys indulging in all things “hygge”, crafting the next great pun, and singing loudly along to the car radio. 

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  • Reply
    Victoria from ConsumerCatholic.com
    June 28, 2018 at 10:25 am

    I recently learned about the Litany of Humility and have prayed it a few times since. It is hard — I find myself asking, “Do I really desire to want my reputation to decrease and for others to increase?” Like you said, it’s really through the grace of God, that I can hope to become humble. We’re on our way – with you in this!


  • Reply
    July 8, 2018 at 8:55 am

    I absolutely love your suggestions, especially the social media one! With such an emphasis on technology and social media these days, I often wonder how it can be used for good and that’s why I love your suggestion. Interacting with other people and using it to spread love and friendship without using it for an affirmation boost is something I want to start doing. Thank you so much for this post!

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